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College Counseling FAQ

The following is a list of some of the most commonly asked questions about college counseling at Winsor. The information is organized by the following sections: Contacts, and Calendars; Standardized Testing; The College Search; The Application Process. We hope you find this helpful. Feel free to contact us with any additional questions or for further clarification on any of the questions below.

I. Contacts

How do I contact the College Counseling Office or specific Winsor college counselors?

Director of College Counseling – Craig Allen callen@winsor.edu 617-912-1355

Associate Director of College Counseling – Jennifer Graham jgraham@winsor.edu 617-912-1318

College Counseling Assistant – Helen Grassi hgrassi@winsor.edu 617-912-1350

Whom do I contact for a meeting?

To set up a meeting with Mr. Allen or Ms. Graham, please contact Helen Grassi, the college counseling assistant.

II. Standardized Testing

Which tests will my daughter have to take in order to apply to college?

Winsor students typically take either the SAT, or the ACT. The two tests are accepted at all colleges and viewed identically. Students should take the test that they feel best represents their abilities. Many Winsor students also take 2-3 SAT Subject Tests.

What is the PSAT?

The PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test) is designed to provide a standardized testing experience for students prior to the SAT. While students can use their scores to help prepare for the SAT, most students will need to start those preparations earlier in order to be ready for late winter or spring test dates.


When are the PSATs?

The PSATs are normally in mid October on a Saturday morning at 8 a.m.

Who takes the PSATs?

The PSATS are optional for Class VI and strongly recommended for Class VII.

When will I receive my PSAT scores?

Students receive their scores online in mid-December from the College Board website. They will need to create an account in order to see the scores.

Is the PSAT important?

While PSAT scores are not reported to colleges, they are used for the National Merit Scholarship Competition. High school juniors who score in the top 5% in their states receive a letters of commendation, and those who score in the top 1% nationally become Semifinalists in the National Merit Scholarship Competition. Class VII students of Hispanic descent may qualify for the National Hispanic Recognition Program.


What are the differences between the SAT and ACT?

The SAT and ACT generally test the same type of content. The SAT contains three sections: Reading, Math, and Writing/Language. The ACT contains four sections: Reading, Math, English, and Science. Both tests have an optional essay portion. The SAT is scored on a scale of 400-1600 while the ACT uses a scale of 1-36. Colleges do not prefer one test over the other and nearly as many Winsor students now submit ACT scores as submit SAT scores. Students should explore both tests to decide which one is right for them.

When should I take the SATs or ACTs?

We recommend that students take the SATs and/or the ACT in the winter/spring of their junior year. While some students may decide to take the tests in the fall of the junior year, others may benefit from additional maturity and preparation time. There is no advantage to taking tests earlier in the junior year, and students should test when they feel most ready to do so.

How many times do students take the SATs?

Typically, students take the SAT/ACT twice, but some students achieve the scores they want the first time, and others take it more than two times. We do not recommend students take the tests more than three times. The college counselors work with each student to develop a personalized testing plan depending on that student’s academic goals and interests.

What about the SAT Subject tests?

Many colleges recommend SAT Subject Tests, and those that do typically ask for two tests in different subject areas. A student can take up to three Subject Tests on any given test date, but generally we recommend students take no more than two tests on one test date.

Which Subject Tests to students typically take and when?

At the conclusion of the Class V year, students who have excelled in biology sometimes take the Biology-E (ecological) Subject Test which focuses on ecology and diversity in organisms. There is also a Biology-M test offered which emphasizes cellular biology and genetics. Winsor’s biology course does not cover all of the topics covered on the Biology Subject Test, so students will need to do additional preparation and should speak with their teachers about how best to prepare.

At the conclusion of the Class VI year, students who have excelled in chemistry and have a solid understanding of Algebra II sometimes take the Chemistry SAT Subject Test. Again, students will need to review additional topics not covered in Winsor’s course to be prepared for this test.

Most SAT Subject Tests are taken at the end of the Class VII year but with the additional of a late summer test date, student may elect to study for subject tests over the summer and test in August. The following tests are most frequently taken by Winsor students:

Physics: In addition to excelling in Winsor’s Physics or Honors Physics course, students taking the Physics SAT Subject Test, should be earning a strong grade in Precalculus.

Math Level 1: includes mostly questions from Algebra 1, Geometry and Algebra 2.

Math Level 2: includes fewer geometry questions and more advanced algebra, as well as precalculus questions. Note: Students interested in engineering, mathematics, or applied science as potential majors should strongly consider the Math Level 2 SAT Subject Test.

English Literature: Winsor’s English classes [and to some degree history courses] with their emphasis on close reading, provide excellent preparation for the Literature SAT Subject Test.

Chinese, French, Spanish or Latin: Students who have completed a fourth year of language study, usually are ready to do well on a language SAT Subject Test.


Please visit www.collegeboard.org for explanations of each subject test and mini-practice tests, as well as a calendar of test dates.


How do I register for the SAT, ACT and/or SAT Subject Tests?

Students are responsible for registering themselves for the SAT, SAT Subject Tests and ACT tests at the College Board website, www.collegeboard.org, or the ACT website, www.act.org. Set up an account and keep track of your user name and password. Winsor is not a test center. Please follow the website directions for locating your nearest test center. Please list Winsor as your high school, so we can receive a copy of your scores. Winsor’s high school code is 220405. Be aware of the registration deadlines.

Do all colleges require the same standardized testing and do I have to send scores from every test I have taken?

Different colleges may have different testing requirements, so it is essential for students to check each college’s website for the testing requirements and discuss their plans with their college counselors. A small number of colleges where Winsor students frequently apply do ask for a complete score report of all standardized testing, but most allow students to pick and choose which scores they would like to submit.

Do all colleges require standardized testing?

An increasing number of colleges and universities are making standardized test scores optional. Others are becoming more flexible with the test scores an applicant can submit for review. Some of the score optional colleges and universities to which Winsor students sometimes apply are:


American University
Bard College
Bates College
Bowdoin College
Bryn Mawr College
Colby College
College of the Atlantic
College of the Holy Cross
Colorado College
Connecticut College
DePaul University
Drew University
Denison University
Dickinson College
Fairfield University
Franklin and Marshall
Furman University
George Mason University
Gettysburg College
Goucher College
Guilford College
Hamilton College
Hampshire College
Hobart & William Smith
Lawrence University
Lewis & Clark College
Loyola University, MD
Middlebury College
Mt. Holyoke College
Muhlenberg College
New York University
Pitzer College
Providence College
Rollins College
Sarah Lawrence College
University of the South
Smith College
St. Lawrence University
Union College
Wake Forest University
Wheaton College
Wittenberg University
Worcester Polytechnic Institute

How do I send my test scores to colleges?

While a few colleges are now accepting self-reported scores, most require that official score reports be sent directly from the Collegeboard or ACT. Winsor does not include test scores on transcripts. Most students wait to see their scores before having them sent to colleges. The SAT provides four free score reports with each test administration, but the ACT charges a fee for each report sent. Typically, it takes two weeks for the scores to arrive at the college and often an additional week for the college to process them.

What are Advanced Placement (AP) exams and when do they take place?

An AP exam is the culminating assessment of an Advanced Placement course or a course that has been taught that covers the AP content. AP courses are certified by the AP Program (a subsidiary of the CollegeBoard) as being college level. Originally used for college credit, scores from AP exams and AP courses listed on transcripts are sometimes used by college admission offices as demonstrations of rigor and college readiness. AP Exams typically take place for two weeks in May.

Are AP exams required?

Winsor policy indicates that if a student takes an AP class, then the AP exam is required. Because Winsor’s English curriculum (Class VII electives, in particular) aligns with the content of the AP English Language and English Literature exams, most Winsor students opt to take one of both of these exams even though the courses are not specifically designated “AP English classes”

How are AP scores sent to colleges?

Colleges typically do not need official score reports from the AP program until a student matriculates. Students should self-report AP scores on their college applications.

III. The College Search

When do colleges visit Winsor?

Every year approximately 65 college admission representatives visit the Winsor campus during the fall in order to meet seniors and present information about their colleges. There are occasionally similar visits in the spring. These meetings provide excellent opportunities for students to meet and interact with members of a college’s admissions staff. In most cases the representative who visits is the person responsible for presenting students’ applications to their colleagues in committee meetings.

What should I do if I have rehearsal, class review, or another important obligation when a representative from a college to which I am applying is visiting?

While most college visits are scheduled during lunch, there are occasionally times when a visit must occur during a class period. If a student is not able to attend the entire information session, if possible, she should stop by to introduce herself to the representative. She can also let her college counselor know that she has an obligation and that information While some students may still elect to prepare for the June 2nd test date, others may want additional time to study and thus sit for the test in late August.will be conveyed to the admissions representative.

Who can attend the college info sessions at Winsor?

The fall meetings are designed for the seniors. The spring visits are geared more to the juniors. We ask that students confer with their teacher before an information session if they would like to miss class.

When should I start to visit colleges?

Spring Break of the junior year is a great time to start visiting colleges. In addition to seeing colleges that one is interested in, it can be useful to visit different types of colleges (small, rural, liberal arts colleges, for example, or large, urban, research universities). College visits typically continue into the summer, fall, and even spring of the senior year. It is important to remember when scheduling visits that students should always prioritize their commitments to their academic classes and extracurricular activities.

When can I make my first meeting with a college counselor?

The formal college counseling process begins in the spring of the Class VII year, though the college counselors are available to answer questions at any point. Once the college counselor has an initial meeting with a student, her parent(s) can request a meeting.

Do you recommend any books for Winsor students and parents about the college search and application process?

Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania, Frank Bruni.

The Gatekeepers, Jacques Steinberg, Viking, New York, NY, 2002. A New York Times journalist takes an inside look at how a prestigious university admissions office selects a class over one entire admissions cycle.

Colleges that Change Lives, Loren Pope, Penguin Books, New York, NY, 2012.

The Fiske Guide to Colleges
, Edward Fiske, Sourcebooks, Naperville, IL, 2018. Widely respected comprehensive resource book presenting college profiles in narrative descriptions.

The Insider's Guide to the Colleges, Yale Daily News staff, St. Martin's Griffin, New York, NY, 2018. Another popular guidebook with profiles, this one written by student journalists.

Letting Go, Sixth Edition: A Parents' Guide to Understanding the College Years, Karen Levin Coburn and Madge Lawrence Treeger, Harper Perennial, New York, NY, 2016. A sensitive, informative and well-written guide to help parents know what their children are getting into when they leave for college.

Test Prep Books
The Official SAT Study Guide: For the new SAT, The College Board, Henry Holt and Company.

The Official Study Guide for all SAT Subject Tests, The College Board, Henry Holt and Company.

The Official ACT Prep Guide, ACT 2018 Edition, Revised and Updated

IV. The Application Process

What are the components of a typical application?

In evaluating candidates for admission, college admission officers consider many factors. Among the most important are:

• High school academic record (including courses taken and grades)
• Standardized test scores
• The quality of the student’s application (usually including an essay)
• School and faculty recommendations
• Extracurricular activities, internship experience, employment
• Special talents and interests

What about interviews?

Different colleges have different interview policies. Some require interviews, some make them optional, some offer interviews with alumni, some colleges do not offer interviews at all. It is important to become familiar with the interview policies of each college on a student’s list. The college counselors often help students prepare for interviews, but students should research the schools on their lists for information on how interviewing policies and procedures.

I have heard about applying “Early.” What does that mean?

Most college applications are due in January or February of the student’s senior year. These are known as regular decision applications and a student can apply to as many schools as she likes (though the college counselors recommend a thoughtful, targeted list of approximately six to nine schools). Students typically receive admission decisions at the end of March or in early April.

Many colleges also offer some version of an early application round, with application deadlines typically in November and with decisions arriving in December. “Early Decision” asks a student to make a binding commitment to a college. If accepted, the student cancels any other applications and accepts the offer of admission. “Early Action” does not require a student to commit to the college; therefore, she can submit regular decision applications as well.

What are the possible responses to an application?

In the regular decision round, applicants can be accepted (hooray!), denied admission, or placed on a college’s waiting list. In an early admission round, students can be accepted (hooray!), denied admission, or deferred to the regular decision round.

What should I know about financial aid?

Given the high cost of higher education, many families apply for financial aid. College financial aid officers attempt to make college attendance possible by working with eligible students and their parents on a need-based financial aid program consisting of loans, grants and work-study options. Applying for financial aid usually does not affect one’s chances of being accepted at a college. Financial aid calculators (widely available on individual college websites and on the CollegeBoard’s website) can provide useful estimates of financial aid eligibility.

Many colleges and organizations award non-need-based financial aid as well. Most of these awards or scholarships are based on academic merit, leadership skills or athletic potential. As well, sometimes there are scholarships available from parents’ employers, towns, churches and community organizations such as the Rotary Club or Kiwanis.

How do I apply for financial aid?

To apply for financial aid, a student and her parents must complete several forms in addition to an application for admission. Different colleges may have different procedures and deadlines for applying for aid so it is vital to become familiar with each college’s requirements. Generally, students and parents are asked to fill out the Federal Government’s FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Often students and their parents are also asked to submit a college’s own financial aid application and an additional document called the CSS (College Scholarship Service) PROFILE, which contains questions that are not included on the FAFSA. The CSS PROFILE (found at CollegeBoard.com) has a fee, but the FAFSA (as the name implies) is free. The college counselors can help with the financial aid process. Another useful resource is the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA). Winsor co-sponsors a financial aid workshop with other Boston-area independent schools, typically in December.

When do I have to make a decision about which college I am going to attend?

Students need to make a decision about which college to attend by the deposit deadline of May 1. Students can deposit at only one college or university. If she has been offered a spot on a college’s waiting list, she still should deposit at one of the colleges at which she has been accepted. If an offer of admission is made later, and she accepts it, she loses her deposit. The college counselors are available to help students and families make decisions and navigate the entire process.